June is Pride Month and 2021 marks the 51st celebration — a time when people come together in support of the LGBTQ community. June also marks the official opening of most Vermont State Parks and end of mud season restrictions on hiking trails throughout the state. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) stewards more than 350,000 acres of public lands on behalf of Vermont and our visitors as a source of inspiration and enjoyment for all. As Agency staff, Vermonters, and visitors venture out to these shared places, ANR is committed to ensuring that everyone feels welcome and respected on Vermont’s public lands and waters.
Earlier in May, an informational kiosk on public land was defaced with violent, intimidating, and targeting markings. ANR condemns these hateful intentions and acts. Public lands in Vermont are places of welcome for everyone. These messages were left in an apparent attempt to both damage public property and send the signal that not all are welcome on the lands and waters we share. ANR has a zero-tolerance policy for actions of this kind. We reject these hateful messages and will investigate and prosecute those responsible.
Removing unauthorized markings takes time, care and taxpayer dollars. And, even if markings are removed, the natural surrounding can be discolored or harmed irreparably. Additionally, the lost sense of safety for staff and visitors is difficult to repair.
We all benefit from time in nature, and every person’s relationship with the outdoors and the natural world is unique. It is essential that every person has opportunities to cultivate their personal connection, including those who haven’t visited before and those who are not entirely sure how to do so. Throughout the pandemic, more Vermonters than ever sought opportunities to explore the outdoors and everyone deserves the right to be and feel welcome and to enjoy all that Vermont’s public lands, facilities, and natural resources have to offer.
The Agency is committed to the work needed to engage our diverse voices and experiences in shaping our work and stewardship. As an Agency, we strive to be inclusive, both leading and supporting important work needed toward diversity, equity and inclusion — in our land management practices, in our environmental policies and permitting, in ensuring our public processes are accessible, equitable and transparent, and in our hiring practices. We look forward to continuing this work with you.
So, as we enter the summer season, we are asking everyone to draw from and build upon Vermonters’ shared ethic of responsibility for our natural environment, an ethic that encompasses a sense of place, community and quality of life, and an understanding that we are an integral part of the environment, and that we must all be responsible stewards for this and future generations.